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Video games and gun violence: A year after Sandy Hook
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Video games and gun violence: A year after Sandy Hook

February 10, 2014 Article Start Previous Page 6 of 7 Next

This polarization of opinions is slowing research progress, he reasons, and shifting resources away from topics that actually matter far more, like the objectification of women in games.

"I really don't enjoy the way a lot of media products celebrate violence," Ivory says, "but if all we ever do is argue about whether that media violence causes crime, we are missing out on a lot of other things that need to be discussed."

"If there was something there, we would have found it at this point. Calling for more studies isn't going to get us anywhere."


Ferguson agrees that research needs to move away from the push for how violent video games affect behavior, noting that there are now hundreds of papers on the topic, and they're all finding the same results -- there is no link.

"It's now about moving past that, into studying it on a much more phenomenological basis -- more of a motivational basis," he tells me. "What is it about video games that attracts people? Why do they play them? What do they get out of it? How is the user a much more important part of that process?"

"I think we've just been obsessed with this idea of finding out whether video games make kids more aggressive," Ferguson adds. "If 15 years later we still haven't come to any obvious answer, we need to keep doing it? Well, if there was something there, we would have found it at this point. Calling for more studies isn't going to get us anywhere."

One thing we could be doing, says the researcher, is looking at how a piece of media can affect lots of different. Take the Bible, for example -- different people read it in different ways, and while some people read it to motivate themselves in a positive way, others use it to learn how to be more close-minded and hate others more, essentially making it as much a piece of violent media as any violent video game is. Or any other piece of media, for that matter.

"There you have one piece of media that arguably has very different influences on different individuals, probably depending on what those individuals wanted to get out of it in the first place," he reasons. "And it would be nice to see media effects research head more into that direction, than it has in the last few decades."

"It'd be a much more sophisticated research field even if it's maybe harder to get grant funding for that, rather than just 'video games are killing our kids.' Otherwise I think we'll just keep spinning our wheels if we keep doing the same research over and over again."

Tackling the disinformation head-on

So we've already plugged years and years of research into finding this elusive link, and come up with barely anything. Perhaps maybe it might be best to block the leak at its source -- the mainstream media.

As discussed, and as is clear to see whenever an attack on video games is in progress, the mainstream media at large enjoys running inflammatory headlines and articles about violent video games, based on little to no evidence.

Ferguson notes that, given how relentless the media was hounding video games following the Sandy Hook tragedy, the event can now at least serve as a reference point for what can go wrong in these debates, and an example that can be linked back to in future years when the media kicks off again.

"Obviously a lot of people, whether they're journalists or politicians or scholars, said a lot of stupid stuff about this case without waiting for actual information," he adds. "It's part of human nature, but I think it helps to point to this case as an example of a media panic in situ."

"The White House certainly, I would say, dropped the ball on this particular issue."

But Ferguson argues that it isn't just the media to blame in these situations. He says that this is how the media has been for generations, and that if you take a step back, the people in a position of authority should at least be looking to step in themselves.

"It was perhaps more of an unfortunate circumstance that we didn't have more courage among our political leaders to direct the discussion in more productive ways," he reasons. "The White House certainly, I would say, dropped the ball on this particular issue, and probably should have shown more leadership in terms of directing the conversation to something more fruitful."

"Maybe gun control was that thing or wasn't -- I think we should have talked more about mental health, myself -- but certainly they ended up doing themselves more damage, and now they look a little silly since the report's come out."

Article Start Previous Page 6 of 7 Next

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